From 5 Gyres <[email protected]>
Subject In honor of Juneteenth
Date June 19, 2020 6:40 PM
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** I am America

I feel afraid. I feel nervous. I feel anxious. I feel depressed. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to think. I wonder what they are thinking about me. I feel like they won’t accept me just as I am. Or maybe they say they will, but will that be true? I feel like an imposter. I am not sure if they trust me. I am not sure if I trust them. I smile just to get through the day. I cry just to get through the night. I feel anger. I feel rage. I feel tense. I can’t bring my culture into the meeting room. I have to learn to laugh in their language, so I am not laughed at. Yet, I represent progress. I represent diversity. I represent equity. I represent inclusion. I feel stress. I feel pain. I can’t breathe. I want to feel loved unconditionally. I am exhausted.

This may offer a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings that a person of color may experience in trying to adapt to the conditions and demands of white culture in America. This is how many of us feel whether in a work environment, in a school, when stopped by the police or in any social setting that is predominantly nestled in white culture or white power. When we witness a horrific event like the world has seen with the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and countless others, the feelings that I just described become ignited in ways that are indescribable. So much so that many of us just become numb because it’s too much to handle. It’s easier to just get on with your day and try not to deal or think about it. Others are so conditioned to hide or repress these feelings that they play the game of being everything other than themselves, just to fit into white cultural norms so they can feel safe.

I share all of this with you because in order for us to begin the healing process as a global community, it is critical that we understand the experience of how the majority of people of color feel day in and day out. And, if we want to begin to support the BIPOC communities to feel differently, it is critical that we look beneath the surface and address and remove the roots of the problem. If we don’t, then no matter how great the protests are, no matter how many social media posts we tag #blacklivesmatter, and no matter how much lip service of political diarrhea that is shared in the media, nothing will change.

One of the main roots to the problem in this country is the conscious and subconscious mental framework that people with darker skin are less than human. They are truly not seen as equal to those of the dominant race and culture. Of course, this is all a myth. But, this level of thinking has manifested itself over many years in all aspects of American modern society. The white privilege and psyche of white power, sometimes quiet and reserved… sometimes loud and abrupt, has been embedded in the American system as legacy and normal. And, as a result, acts of violence, discrimination, prejudice, exploitation, bigotry, segregation and racial inequality has become a tradition in the American system to keep those of darker skin in conditions of stagnation. And yet, we continue to sell the idea that freedom is for everyone. We all want to believe in the dream of America, but when we witness the blatant murders of unarmed black people, all I can see is an American nightmare.

So, the complexity of race relations is going to take quite some time to repair and we all need to participate in active ways to support the growth of a new garden rooted in an environment in which all people and systems can thrive. An environment that transcends the falsehood and social construction of race which is not tied to our biology. We all share a common ancestor and belong to one race and that is the human race. But in order for us to begin the process of healing, white people MUST take a hard look at white culture looking deep into their hearts and ask, why do people of darker complexions have to adapt to white culture? Why doesn’t white culture adapt to BIPOC and include their cultural norms in all aspects of society? Why is white privilege and power not shared in a way that BIPOC feels included? And, they must do this without falling into the pitfalls of defensiveness and white fragility. Compassionately examine, examine and examine more and then share ideas about
reconstructing systems that are not based on dominion or supremacy, but are based on harmony with all sentient beings and natural living systems. This takes courage, trust, compassion, humility and secular human values that have the power to make real change.

It has been mind blowing to see the world stand up against the injustices of black people. It moves me so deeply. Young people and the future generations must continue the momentum of change. We know that peaceful protests are the foundation, but we can’t stop there. We must organize and mobilize and ensure that we show up to the polls no matter what this election season. Don’t let the long lines stop you. Don’t let the weather stop you. Don’t let ideas or thoughts that “my vote doesn’t count” stop you. Don’t let your friends or families stop you. Be determined with optimism to make real change and it will happen. This will take global solidarity, collaboration and cooperation to be successful. The future has the possibilities to be very bright, but it depends on the choices that we make today that will determine that.

Our future work at The 5 Gyres Institute will integrate this narrative of real change by working with other social justice and environmental justice groups to stop plastic pollution. We have to work together and we have to unite to shape our future for generations to come.

I feel hopeful. I feel alive. I feel excited. I can see my future. I know how to speak up. It doesn’t matter what they are thinking of me. I believe in myself. I feel love. I feel compassion. I feel authentic. I know that life is tough, but I am strong. I am humble. My culture is your culture. My home is your home. My people are your people. My diversity is now self-evident. I feel equal and included. I feel happy. I feel human. I love the work that I do because my talents are truly valued. I am accepted just as I am. I am woke. I am free. I am America.

Air Copeland

Executive Director of 5 Gyres

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